This is an edited extract of Janette Howard’s interview with the ABC for The Howard Years. The program’s producers were unable to include any of this material:

The biggest problem with our Government was the amazing numbers of ****wits, dipsticks and ****tards in it. I said to John even before we were elected, I said to him “John,” I said, “there’s not a single ****ing brain cell between the ****ing lot of them, I’ve never seen such a pack of ***eclowns.” And he agreed.

At the first Cabinet meeting — I had to run most of them in the first few years because bloody John didn’t have a ****ing clue, he said “well Malcolm used to do it this way” and I said “I don’t give a **** how Fraser did it, what the **** did he know?” — I looked at the whole ****ing lot of them and I said “what a ****ing crew. To think you *****s are running the ****ing country. We’re going to have to do all ****ing work our ****ing selves.”

Anyway we got rid of a few of them in the first years with all those ****ing travel rorts and eventually I called a halt and said “John,” I said, “if we keep this up there’ll be no ****ing bastard left. You’ll have to promote Petro ****ing Georgiou and Wilson ****ey and I’m not having that.”

There was one person I couldn’t abide. Not Costello. I mean we hated him, smirking little ****, but I tell you the one person I could never stomach was that bloody John Fahey. I told him time after time not to ****ing smoke in Kirribilli but I’d come home and there he’d be, his feet up on the pouffe like Lord Muck watching the football, smoking like a chimney. ‘The puffer on the pouffe’ I called him. And he’d cough something terrible. Like a ****ing steam train going up a ****ing mountain. I always said one day he’d cough up a ****ing lung and eventually that’s what he did. I called him “One Lung John” after that. Silly ****wit.

By about 2001 John had started to get the hang of chairing Cabinet. The poor little dear can be a bit slow on the uptake. Sometimes he just let Tim Fischer start rambling on about some ****ing walk he’d taken somewhere in the mountains and I’d have to say “Tim, love, no one gives a flying **** about your hike or your trains or what the **** ever so just sit there quietly will you dear?” I always had to sit on the same side as Richard Alston because I couldn’t handle that man’s eyes. God. He’s like some ****ing psycho staring at you. He unnerved me, he really did, when he left Cabinet I told John that he had to be sent out of the country, I didn’t want to run the ****ing risk of ever running into him. Ugh. Creepy.

I tell you who I didn’t mind was that Kim Beazley. Kim knew his place, which was on the other side of the chamber. I said to Kim once at some do, “Kim, you’re a lovely man and I hope you lead the Labor Party forever.” He started on some ****ing anecdote about Chester A. Arthur or Ulysses S. Grant or Ward Pally Austin or some ***** and I said “enough GBH of the eardrums, Kim, it’s bad enough having to listen to that little toady Downer all day.”

Downer was forever getting in the way trying to be ob-****ing-sequious to John, I don’t know how a man that tall could get underfoot so much I really don’t. But they put in that Simon Crean and then that Mark Latham character. Don’t get me started on that ****ing Latham ****. That ****ing **** ****ing **** a ****ing ****wit **** in the *****ing ****, and I ****ing said to John ****ing ****ball ****tard should ****ing **** **** ****ward **** for the rest of the ****ing decade.” I didn’t like him.

Now I know you want to ask me about this so I’ll ****ing get right to the point. John had this absolute ****ing BRAIN SNAP in 2007 and decided he was going to quit. I’d been busting a ****ing gut on APEC all year. I was the ****ing one who did all the ****ing work for that ****ing thing, planning the ****ing security, the ****menus, the ****ing clothes, the ****ing meetings. I got no help from anyone except that nice Mr Watkins from NSW who was a pleasure to work with and handsome in a proper sort of way, I quite liked him.

Anyway, I’d worked my ****ing arse off all year and John starts whingeing “I think I should quit, they don’t want me to stay, they think they’ll lose with me.” And I hit the ****ing roof and told him he either stayed in the job or he could start looking for a couch to sleep on. And he says in this pathetic little voice “but Janette, what about the party?” And I said to him “John Winston Howard the only party you need to worry about is the one where I ****ing caught you looking at that ****ing Condoleezza Rice woman.” And he gives me these big cow eyes god bless him. Back in 1967 about he made this so-called “joke” about how “once you’ve had black you never go back.” I never forgot that. And I caught him looking at that Rice woman when we went to America one time and he was in the doghouse for a few months.

So we went to the ****ing reception and there was no more talk of resignations. And that ****ing Rice woman stayed right away from my husband. Sow.

The thing I remember most about the Howard years is work. Hard ****ing work. I couldn’t rely on the Cabinet, and most of the time I couldn’t even rely on John. I just had to bloody do it myself. In the end it was almost a relief that we lost, I was getting bone tired day after day doing it all. Politics is a really tough job.

The Howard Years (sans Janette) screens tonight on ABC1

Peter Fray

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